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On piracy

(This page somewhat repeats the ideas I have written in Finnish in another page, even though I present my somewhat "updated" thoughts.)

I classify software pirates into three categories:

In one extreme there are "professional" pirates. They make a business of cracking, copying and selling pirated software, usually in countries where there are no law restrictions or where the law enforcement is too weak to do anything about it (IOW officials simply don't care). It's rather sad how many people actually pay real money to these criminals just to get pirated software cheaper.

On the other extreme there are those people who don't know too much about computers and actually don't even fully understand the concept of software piracy. To most of them the computer is a magic box which does some strange things inside which are completely beyond their comprehension (or this is what they hypnotize themselves to believe). When a member of the family, a friend or a neighbour offers them to set the computer up and install some software (pirated, of course), they don't give it a second thought. They think it's just a normal procedure and that everyone does it. They might not even understand the concept of a computer program, that someone has created that program, and that the program has a price in the exact same way as the computer itself had a price or any other house appliance.

Many of them do know that commercial software has a price and that in theory you would have to actually buy it with real money, but they simply don't care. They usually just don't think about it and ignore the issue. If they are confronted by someone questioning about their use of pirated software, they just try to make up excuses (all the old, tired ones).

Then there's the third type of pirates: The ones who think they are cool and l33t, who think that only fools pay for something they can get for free, that all software should be free, who don't give a damn about how morally questionable or illegal software piracy is. Some of them think that people who don't use pirated software and think it's morally wrong are weird.

I have met in real life people who are (or at least were) extreme cases, people who actually collected pirated software like one could collect stamps or coins, who had incredible amounts of CDs burnt full of pirated software, who probably think they are somehow cool and l33t and part of a community of "hackers" by maintaining an FTP server in their own computer full of pirated software for other l33ts to download (this was before the creation of P2P sharing programs).

Many if not most of the two latter types of people seem to think that it's (or at least should be) everyone's moral right to use computers and any software they want. With some weird twisted logic they think that everyone has the right to use any given software and that the company which created it is evil because it overprices it. They somehow seem to think like software was a natural resource which you can find in the wild (like a rare food product or whatever) which some evil companies collect and sell at exorbitant prices and that it's wrong. Their twisted logic somehow reverses the entire issue: They seem to think that it's the companies who are evil and are doing morally wrong things by selling the software at an exorbitant price, and that it's the end user who is the "victim" of this greed.

I don't even understand how this twisted logic has formed. Nobody really believes that software is some kind of "natural resource" which you just collect and sell, like they were potatoes or strawberries. Yet, when you talk with some of these people, you get that feeling. They often talk like they were saying "it's my right to eat to survive, and it's morally wrong for big companies to sell food at exorbitant prices, and thus it's completely ok for me to steal that food from them".

This kind of logic doesn't make any sense, of course, even if we assumed that using a computer would be mandatory in the current world. That logic somehow seems to assume that only commercial software exists. There are perfectly good free alternatives for all software you need to deal with anything related to computers (such as email, writing documents, paying your bills online, etc). You can perfectly well use a computer for anything relevant with completely free, legal software. The "nowadays you have to be able to use a computer" argument to defend software piracy is completely fallacious. (Naturally most of these people will present all the old, tired excuses why free software is not enough; all of them are nothing but exactly that: excuses.)

Also, "you need to use the computer nowadays" is an especially twisted argument to defend computer game piracy. Computer games are cool, but in no way life-critical.

One moral problem with software piracy, one which most people don't seem to be aware of (and even if they are or are told about, they just don't care) is that software piracy is done at the expense of honest, paying customers.

Many people think that they are just "stealing from a big rich company" and that it doesn't matter. They are rich, they are big, copying some of their software won't hurt them, and even if it does, who cares?

The problem with this is that they fail to realize that it's not only the company who they are stealing from. The problem is that they are stealing the software at the expense of honest, paying customers. In other words, honest, paying customers are paying for the software that people use illegally.

Companies don't operate all by themselves. They need money to run and they don't have a magic money tree where they get infinite supply of it. Many people seem to think, again with some twisted logic, that big companies just run by themselves, with some kind of infinite source of money inside them.

Who, in the end, keeps these companies running? The honest, paying customers.

We have big commercial software, software which is way too big to be created by the open source community (just think about HL2 or Doom3), which is created by companies which are able to operate because there exist people who pay them money for this software. The company does not run by itself. It's the honest customers who keep it running.

Thus software pirates who illegally use the software are using it at the expense of these honest people. They are not just stealing from the "big bad company", they are stealing from every honest customer the company has. Without these honest people the company would go bankcrupt and there would be no more software to pirate.

That brings us to the next piece of twisted logic: Many software pirates seem to have this weird opinion that all software should be usable for free and that everyone should use software for free, and they often have the principle of distributing as much pirated software as possible.

The problem with this twisted logic is that if everyone did indeed never pay for any software and only used pirated software, we would soon have no software at all, apart from open source. We would say goodbye to Windows, MS Office, MacOS X, 3DMax, Maya, Half-Life 2, Doom 3 and a myriad more. With this strange principle of theirs, the pirates are actually draining their source of software dry.

So these "weirds" and "fools" who are stupid enough to actually pay money for software are exactly what keeps the companies running and thus software keeps coming. Stealing software at their expense is no different from stealing money from people directly.

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